THE Fraser Coast’s dwindling koala population may benefit from the work of two scientists researching the use of vaccines to fight the deadly chlamydia bacterium.
Professor of Microbiology Peter Timms, of Buddina, and Senior Research Fellow Dr Adam Polkinghorne, of Zillmere, have joined the staff at the University of the Sunshine Coast and will use the region as a base for their work on the disease.
They have brought with them more than $1 million in national research funding to support their investigations into a vaccine to protect koalas from chlamydia.
They are also confident their research will have crossover benefits that may one day address the increasing incidence of the sexually transmitted disease in humans.
Prof Timms and Dr Polkinghorne are engaged in a multi-million dollar study of 60 koalas in the wild, 30 of which have been vaccinated. First-year results of the three-year program are expected in about two months.
Prof Timms said it was logical the team would look at bringing local koala groups into their study.
“I think we will be looking for individual populations in the area that are under threat and working with them.
“We can do research until the cows come home but I am all for not keeping a vaccine under wraps … for putting it to use.”
But he admitted it might be too late for the three surviving koalas in Noosa National Park.
Half the park’s remaining koala population was recently euthanised after becoming sick with cystitis.
Prof Timms said he was “100% certain” the condition was caused by chlamydia.
“There is no reason not to look after those three remaining,” he said.
“It might be too late for them but all we can do is vaccinate them and try to help prevent them getting more sick.”
He said the vaccination of an animal that already had the disease would provide scientists with significantly more information than could be gained by artificially infecting mice.